Here’s a little of what Team Alchemist has been up to recently:
Here’s a little of what Team Alchemist has been up to recently:
I know I need to catch up on Team Alchemist updates. Loads of great race results from Team riders. Those will be coming. In the meantime, here is a review on the Alchemist HOMEGROWN BLACKBOXX Kit in Velonews.com. We were front page for a couple days. Can’t believe we got pushed out by less compelling articles about the USA Pro Challenge and Lance giving up the fight. BTW, that jersey was designed for Team IMBA riders at the Firecracker and Leadville 100. We will be producing a limited run of them for retail purchase next month.
The Wheeler vid was, bumpy. Well, it was a bumpy ride. Here is Stage 6, which was a luge in comparison. Final thoughts coming when I have the energy to write them. But one thing to mention is that Mike Mac, in a sleep-deprived, semi-delirious, charitable state of mind announced that 2013 Breck Epic early-bird entrants will receive a massive discount. $649 instead of the retail price of $995. That’s a discount of, like, um, a lot of coin. It’s good until Mike catches up on his sleep, which is something like a week from now. Event dates are Aug 11-16, 2013. Register at Prerace.com. http://www.prerace.com/races/event/16554/Breck-Epic
Wheeler. It’s a nice hike. The red horned devil at the top of the profile? That’s Hell at over 12,000′.
Spent too much time putting together the video. Too tired to write much. The stabilization feature on imovie takes forever, so be forewarned, it’s kinda shaky at times.
Rode with Ken, Chris, and Team Bliss, John and Michele. Ken and Team Bliss rode to victory. Yeehaw.
There is a place, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no toil. This, is not it. –Bob Roll
42 miles. 8800′ vertical gain. Day 4, The Aqueduct stage, so named because of the massive corrugated pipe running along the trail before Aid 1, likely placed there to make sure you eat sh*t if you happened to travel on the wrong side of it.
No doubt owing to the brilliant, though semi-sadistic, nature of Mike Mac, the stages of the Epic flow day to day so that each successive day brutalizes you more than the previous. Despite the universal utterance from finishers of each stage that that stage had to have been the hardest, it only gets worse. After the a$$-kicking of Guyot yesterday, the Aqueduct followed with meanness in her heart and blood on her lips. Heinous Hill and Vomit Hill (yeah, I know) were lined up back-to-back to start you off with a couple swift kicks in the Jimmy. The Keystone climb in the middle puts you in a headlock until you cry uncle. And when you do, she finishes you off with a biblical-sized haymaker at mile 36. It sounds like a quaint vacation spot, but Rock Island Gulch has murder on it’s mind. The grade is over 20%, and the terrain is loose shale and rock. Low blow, Michael. Low blow.
But, that sinister soul also has a soft spot. And today, it was a revisit to the Colorado Trail. Same section as day 2 (which I’ve been advertising to anyone willing to listen as the worst day I’ve ever spent on a bike), except this time in reverse. Yesterday, I rode with Ken and Andrew, which made the nasty Guyot stage so much more bearable. Today, I rode with Ken and Chris C (Happy 44th B-day, Chris!). When you ride your heart out and still come in 5th, you may as well just ride with friends and enjoy the pain together. During one of our extended yoga sessions on the Keystone climb, Team Bliss appeared. We had passed the overall first place coed duo team early on, so it appeared that they were in first place for the stage. John rode the Leadville 100 on Saturday (the Epic started on Sunday), so they’ve been in recovery mode until now. But today, they were on their game. Michele led us down the CT trail, which was fast and furious, and fun. We passed spots on the the trail that whipped up flashbacks to the blubbering and self-pity from Day 2. But today was another day, the sun was out, and the trail was tacky and ripe. We rode as a group into aid 3, and eventually on their way to the stage win. Big congrats to them. They trail the overall lead by about an hour. But anything can happen in these races, so they still have a shot. I’m hoping they let us tag along again, so I can at least experience a win by proxy.
Tomorrow is the infamous Wheeler stage. More on that tomorrow.
39 miles, 6518′ of vertical gain. The Guyot Loop is the first of three Queen stages. The red hot poker you see on te elevation profile is the top of French Pass, which pokes out over 12,000′. The climb to get there is predictably steep and rocky. Well, above tree line the exposure was awesome. You can see a line of riders (hikers at that point) stretching out for a mile.
Ken, Andrew, and I decided to ride together since neither Andrew or I were in contention, and Ken was well ahead of second place. My legs still felt dead from the previous day, and I wasn’t sure I could hang. But along the way, we stopped to do yoga on multiple occasions, which did wonders for my back. By the time we topped out on French Pass, I felt like a new man.
The stage also features another piece of the Colorado Trail. This section is fast at the top, and technical at the bottom. With the previous day’s rain, the roots and rocks were especially sketchy.
We finished together and had a much better time of it than the day before, which was my worst day on a bike by a long shot.
Here is Ken’s recent post to friends and family:
Perhaps we should consider ourselves blessed that this race has had perfect conditions the last 3 years. Or perhaps we’ve been working on credit all this time. But when you do business with a loan shark, payback’s a’comin’, one way or another. And we got all paid up today, and then some.
Conceived nearly a decade ago, and delivered in 2008, the Breck Epic is the premier ultra-endurance mountain bike stage race in the U.S., and arguably, North America. 90% of the race takes place over 10,000′, with a sizable chunk above 12,000′. But the thin air isn’t the only feature that makes this race special. It boasts more singletrack riding than the Trans Alps, Cape Epic, and Trans Rockies — combined. Another unique feature is that the trails around Breckenridge are so abundant and scenic, that each stage not only has it’s own distinctive flavor, but they also all begin, and end, in town. So if you aren’t the camping, migratory, gypsy type (read, author is not that type), you can set up your race headquarters in any nearby condo, sleep in a real bed, and avoid any prison-style shower encounters,
But lest you get the impression that this race is for sissies (okay, perhaps for the pampered (read, the author is that type)), the shear breath of terrain and vertical gain will remind you that this race is not for the faint of heart, or legs, or lungs. 6 days, 240 miles, 37,000′ of climbing. By roadie standards, that doesn’t sound like a challenge. But roadies don’t climb 20% grades over roots and babyheads. Nor do they descend through dense forests and boulder fields with their hair on fire. They certainly don’t throw their bikes back and forth along loamy, perfectly cut, buffed-out trail on super fine singletrack, feeling, as Mike Mac describes it, like a Mother-Grabbing Jedi. Speaking of Mike, this passage from his description of Stage 5 pretty much sums of the feisty nature of this race.
” . . . if you’re reading this, you faced the rabid Aqueduct stage down, met its stare and made it look away. You stood your ground. Well this old b*tch has one more card up her sleeve, one more knife in her boot and one more cruel sucker punch to throw before she’ll kneel before you. And its name is Wheeler.” --Mike Mac, Breck Epic 2011
The Breck Epic is not only a mountain bike race, it is a collective effort to raise funds to support a number of worthy non-profits. The local IMBA chapter (which actually predates IMBA), The Summit Fat Tire Society, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, and Willa’s Wheels, which supports the Raymond Wentz Foundation for cancer patient financial assistance.
On a less profound note, the Breck Epic is also serving as the Single Speed Stage Race World Championships (SSSRWC). Why not so profound? Have you ever met a singlespeeder? (n.b., author rides a singlespeed, but wimped out this time and opted for gears)
So, about Stage 2 . . .
The start on Washington St. was a gloomy, drizzly affair, no doubt ready to burn off and become more seasonable by mid-morning. As we made the turn off onto the first climb, Mike was there to greet us. “Bright blue sky just beyond!”.
His words of encouragement were somehow mitigated by the volunteer standing next to him. “It’s going to f**king pour.”
Somewhere in between was certain to lie the truth. The drizzle became a steady rain, which at times, became a downpour. It was only made tolerable by the fact that the first couple climbs were so intense that you may as well have been wet from sweat. But as we crested Vomit Hill (yes, there is a Vomit Hill, and I imagine you can guess why it is so named), I realized that the impending gravity-hungry descent was going to be, chilly. It only got colder from there.
I’ve been that cold one other time in my life. Caught in a freak snowstorm on a stout little climb called Logan Mill in Boulder, we descended in our summer attire through blinding, wet snow. By the time I made it home, I was hypothermic and had lost all feeling and function of my hands. Failing multiple times to use my knuckles to punch in the correct code to my garage, I had a panic moment and thought, “I’m going to freeze to death in front of my f**cking garage!” That moment was reenacted many times over today, except it lasted for hours. By mile 15, a non-stop shiver had set in. Teeth chattering and dizzy, I couldn’t hold a line going up, and worse, I looked like a clown on acid trying to descend, with shiver-induced speed wobbles nearly taking me out in what history books might describe as, a glorious, fiery exit.
Stage 2 features mind-blowingly fun trail. The piece of singletrack on the Colorado Trail is fast, flowy and swoopy. It is graded and formed so that you only need to occasionally feather your brakes as you lean and work your bike to and fro. It is pretty close to a perfect trail. So when we finally arrived at the descent, I was a little more than disappointed that I was too cold and numb to enjoy it. I mainly tried to stave off the relentless daydreams about hot showers and gooey bacon cheeseburgers. I had held out hope that the sun would pop out at any minute, or that it would at least stop raining, but by aid 2, I was ready to pull the plug. The aid volunteers sheparded me under the tent, and I gorged on orange slices and bananas. By the time I had worked my way through three-quarters of the cut oranges, they were ready to kick me out. My friend, Chris, saw me shivering and pulled out a pink shower cap. “Here, put this on your head, it’ll keep you warm.”
I noticed he was wearing one too, and I had no reason to dispute it, so I donned the cap like a cheery lunch lady. Only later did I wonder why he was carrying two shower caps, and if so, what the hell else was he carrying with him? Assessing the sad state I was in, one of the volunteers hinted that there was an easy, direct route home. In fact, our condo was no more than half a mile away, and I had 10 more miles to the finish, which included a particularly steep, slippery, rooty climb. But I’d just as soon freeze off a toe than quit a race, so I saddled back up and limped home. An impromptu shuttle service was set up by the volunteers at the finish, and they spotted me wimpering next to the pretzels. “We’d better take that guy first.”
I’m not used to being that guy. Embarrassing Strava data here. I’m pretty sure I heard my Garmin laughing when I crossed the finish.
Miles= 39.6. Vertical gain: 5419′.
Stage 1 follows much of the same route as the Firecracker 50. But to make it more interesting, Mike throws in a little detour off of Boreas that climbs up steep, technical trail. It takes a lot out of you by the time you get to Little French Gulch, which is the notoriously hard climb in the Firecracker. As far as descents, I think today’s stage is one of the rougher stages. The descents are mostly fast, rubble-filled fire road., and even the singletrack into Carter Park is rooty and rocky, but at least you are almost home by that point.
I went out hard at the start today. I was well above threshold for the entire first climb, which, except for the channel trail and a couple fast descents, consistently climbed for over an hour. It’s not really my style to race like that. I usually start in the back and pick folks off as the race goes on. I guess I wanted to see how long I could maintain that intensity, The answer is, not long enough. The excessive time above threshold caught up to me before I hit Little French Gulch. My legs were cramping, and once that happens, I lose the ability to generate power. I spent a large part of the later half of the race just trying to keep the cranks turning in granny. I finished in a similar time as last year, but felt more spent. I came in 5th for age group. It is a long shot to sneak onto the podium. Loads of strong riders. I can’t get the Strava report to embed, so here is the link. http://app.strava.com/activities/18230531
Ken rode well, but missed a turn because a van had knocked over one of the signs. He lost a good amount of time, but still finished well ahead of the next Clydesdale. I plan to ride with him tomorrow, since I get lonely out there.
Dan, who was my partner from last year, was signed up for the three day. He had a catastrophic tire blow out, and after two tubes and multiple spent CO2 cartridges, he pronounced his race dead. Too bad, since we were all lined up to share a bed. We have an understanding that I’m the big spoon. We’ll miss hangin and racing with you Buss.
Tomorrow is the Colorado Trail stage. 7800′ of vertical gain, but the trails are buff and swoopy. This is the funnest stage of the race.
Off to bed.
Breck Epic begins tomorrow. Pre-race registration and meeting was today. Good to see familiar faces and friends. Riding this one solo since Stuart decided to ride with George W.Bush instead. Hard to believe, I know. In any case, 6 days of hard racing ahead.
Big congrats to the Alchemist Team riders and friends racing the Leadville 100 today. Drew (8:11! I know you wanted sub-8, but that is absurdly fast), Jon(9:01 (Pulley, you couldn’t have ridden one minute faster?)), Paul (Leadman contender threw down a 10:15), Deb (sub 12 belt buckle with no base miles under her belt. Great comeback.), Jenn (9th belt buckle, one to go!), Rick (10:50 on an all-mountain bike), Bliss(9:16 and here in Breck right now for the Leadville/Epic Double down. John, you can’t be serious.), Travis (9:50 off the couch! He just flew in late last night ,and saddled up for 100 miles.), Doug (10:20, the big winner earned 100k for World Serve and clean water. Boom! But more importantly he was riding in a custom HOMEGROWN jersey).
Someone send me some more pics fer cryin’ out loud.
Also, big ups to Alchemist Rider, Steven, who mixed it up with some big names in Steamboat for the Stinger. He brought home 5th in the singlespeed cat.
And Chris W. throwing down for a podium spot at Winter Park.
Strong work, everyone! Ken, Bliss, Chris C. and I will be on it tomorrow.
Last big effort before the Breck Epic in 2 weeks.
The Laramie Enduro is one of the premier races on the mtb circuit. With a lottery and a waiting list a mile long, they’ve grown to become one of the most popular races around. Alchemist was honored to partner with them, this year being the first to offer race jerseys to participants. proceeds from each jersey sale went toward the non-profits that the Enduro supports, including the Wyoming Red Cross among others.
Having designed and made their custom cycling jerseys, and being a sponsor of the race, I signed up to race it for the first time. The course takes place in the National Forest area between Laramie and Cheyenne, starting in the Hidden Valley Picnic area going through beautiful areas known as Happy Jack and Vedauwoo. Stats on the course: elevation=7200′, distance=111k, climbing= 6100′ of ascent (according to my Garmin).
Ken and I got in late on Friday, checked-in at race registration, said hello to Rich Vincent, and settled into the Econolodge. Nothing but first-class for us Alchemist boys. I wasn’t nervous for the race, it’s well into the season, but I had perhaps the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had. I thought I may have drifted off to sleep at one point, only to realize I was still awake. I couldn’t bear to look at the clock, not sure if I wanted it to be early (so I could still get some sleep), or late, so I could just get out of bed and get ready for the race.
Dawn did finally come. I wasn’t sure if I had ever nodded off or not, but I was glad to see the sun. I grabbed a cheese danish from the free breakfast area, and we headed to the start.
Ken and I had planned to ride together, so we could pace each other through the road sections. But this year, they staged the start so that the big boys started 10 minutes behind. The beta on the race is that you should get your ass out to the front early before it hits singletrack. Men’s age group category was big, probably 200 riders or more. I started around 20th at the gun, and hauled ass up the first road climb. I was surprised to find myself to be one of the top 5 riders as we hit the first trail section. Alex, who recently joined the Team, was around third. For the most part, we both stayed in the top ten guys for most of the race.
After the singletrack, the course opens up to dirt road climbs. This is where having a group working together would be helpful. I tried to stay with lines of riders, but mostly ended up at the front of the line as most everyone wanted to stay tucked away, out of the head wind. I traded pulls with a singlespeeder as we towed a line of riders along the dirt road. Alex was ahead, but I kept him in view until the first aid. But after waiting in line to fill my bottle, I lost him as he had made it through that first aid quickly.
I had forgotten to check the air in my tires, and the rear was feeling a bit squirrely on the loose gravel. By the time I was able to get a pump at aid 3, my pressure was about 15 psi. I pumped it up to 32, and just hoped that it would hold.
The course is a mix of dirt roads and singletrack, some of which is quite technical. It suited me well since I could go hard on the non-technical climbs, and also gain ground on the tricky parts as I picked my way through the technical sections. Having learned to mountain bike in rooty and rocky places like Texas and Virginia, I seemed to be able to work my way through the technical trail quicker than most of the folks around me. In the Happy Jack singletrack around mid-race, I came across one of the open women riders, who was struggling. I asked her if she needed anything, and she reported that she was cramping badly and needed electrolytes. Drew and Paul would argue that her cramps had nothing do to with electrolytes, but I wasn’t in the mood to chat about it with her. The trail opened up just a bit so I slowed down along side her and poured a couple Endurolytes into her hand. We hit a bump, and the rest ended up on the ground. Shucks.
After aid 3, there is a hairy, loose decent. I rounded a turn to find a fella standing on the side of the trail, with his hand behind his head. I thought he had injured his head, so I slowed down to see if he was okay. Turns out he wasn’t holding his head. He just couldn’t lower his arm because he had what he thought was a dislocated shoulder. He was in a lot of pain. Struggling with what I knew I should do, and what my racing mindset preferred to do, I paused, then asked him if he wanted me to put it back in. Without hesitation, the answer was “YES!”. So I parked my bike in a bush and scooted over to him. I felt around, and sure enough, he was dislocated. At first, I had him sitting up, and tried a couple maneuvers in that position to reduce the shoulder. But he was too tense, and the shoulder didn’t want to go back in.
In the ER, I have them lie on their stomachs with the arm hanging off the stretcher as I manipulate their shoulder blade. I pretty much reduce all my dislocated shoulders like that, and I don’t ever need to sedate them. But that technique wasn’t an option here, so I had him lie down on his back instead. I knelt down and stuck my knee in his armpit and gently gave a little traction and rotation, at the same time trying to coax his humeral head back into the joint. The trick with not sedating someone when reducing their shoulder is that you have to be patient. You have to be willing to wait out the muscle spasms that are keeping the shoulder out. It’s not a Lethal Weapon type of reduction, and if you aren’t patient, it won’t work. So I tried to be patient as I watched rider after rider zip by. I could feel his shoulder muscles spasm and relax, so I knew I was close, but it just wouldn’t make that final plunge. Time ticked by, and I started to wonder if I was going to be able to get it back in. Finally, I felt it move and then slip back into place. There was a collective “Aaaaaah” from both of us. He was banged up, but other wise, seemed capable of walking out. I had forgotten to introduce myself, so we made quick introductions, then I hopped back on and tried to make up for lost ground.
I caught back up to Jim Fu of Epic Endurance, and we rode together for a stretch. It was good to see him again, and it was nice to have some company for a bit. At aid 4, I grabbed a Cherry Coke, and tried to drink it on the climb out of the aid station. I think I spilled most of it, but managed to get enough down to perk me up a bit. I tucked the can into a jersey pocket and turned on the afterburners.
It was hard to known exactly who was in my category. I reeled in rider after rider only to see that they had white number plates, the color for the Open category. I didn’t really know where I stood in the standings, but I was riding well, so I just kept pressing. After aid 5, there is a section known as The Wall. It is steep, rocky, and relentless. Ken and Drew told me it was coming, and I had mentally prepared myself to walk parts of it. But once I was on it, I didn’t want to get off. I rode through it and tried to keep riding hard until I finally emerged from the trees and realized I was close to home.
I came in a shade under 6 hours, which was good enough for third place. As it turned out, Alex was a few minutes ahead of me and he finished in second. Ken finished not long after and took second in the Clydesdale category, which was an inexplicably deep field this year.
Good race for us all. Three podium spots. Hung out with Stu Fish afterward. We first met him in Fruita for the Fat Tire Festival. Claire saw him walking around and pulled him over to the booth and told him we had a jersey made just for him. And boy, was it.
Big thanks to Shaun and Rich and all the volunteers at the Laramie Enduro for putting on a stellar event.